Tuesday at CNN’s Wisconsin GOP town hall, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump defended his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski who was charged with misdemeanor battery in an incident involving former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields at a Jupiter, FL, campaign event on March 6.
Trump insisted Lewandowski will continue as his campaign manager because Trump said, “I stick up for people, and I don’t want to ruin somebody’s life.”
Partial transcript as follows:
COOPER: I got to start off with some news of the day topics. Your campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski charged with simple battery for grabbing a reporter by the arm. Will he continue as your campaign manager?
TRUMP: Yes, he will. I looked at the tape. I looked — it was my tape. It was at one of my places. I have great security and great security cameras. I gave the tape, and frankly, if you look at that, people have looked at it — in fact, I just left another area of Wisconsin, we had a whole big meeting with a whole group of people, big audience, tremendous audience, and they’re all shaking their heads, give me a break, give me a break.
COOPER: Let me ask you, though…
TRUMP: The answer is yes. And by the way, speaking of something else, I watched Ted Cruz. His home state is not Florida. His home state is Texas. It may be Canada.
TRUMP: But to the best of my knowledge, it’s Texas. So he made that — I was surprised you didn’t correct him actually.
COOPER: Let me ask you about Lewandowski. Initially your campaign said this never happened, there was no video of it. You came out and said you thought this person was, perhaps, making it up, this reporter. Lewandowski, himself, tweeted saying, I never met this reporter, I never touched this person; now the videotape shows he clearly did touch this person. Whether or not you think it was battery or not…
TRUMP: Touch — I don’t know what touch means. I looked…
COOPER: Well, he says I never touched this person.
TRUMP: And then she says, oh, look, at my arm.
COOPER: Did he mislead you at all?
TRUMP: Not at all. No, not at all. Look, I didn’t know we had all these security cameras all over. But the time I found out, I said, well, this is really wonderful, this exonerates him totally. Now…
TRUMP: (inaudible) would have happened (inaudible) went to the ground or something to the effect that she almost went to the ground. She was in pain. She went to the ground. When she found out that there was a security camera, and that they had her on tape, all of a sudden that story changed. She didn’t talk about it.
COOPER: No, that’s not true. She says her story has remained exactly the same. She was knocked a little bit off…
TRUMP: Oh really? Can I read this to you this then?
COOPER: Yes, that she was knocked off balance but she remained standing.
TRUMP: Do you mind if I read this to you? Do you mind if I read you her statement?
TRUMP: I mean, give me a break. You know, the problem is everybody dumps people when there’s, like, a sign of political incorrectness. I’m just going to read, if I can find it…
COOPER: She said she was almost knocked off balance, but she remained standing.
TRUMP: She said she was almost knocked off balance, right. Here’s what she said. You want to read it? Or you want me to do it?
You’re a professional announcer. Why don’t you read it. The bottom part.
TRUMP: The bottom. Now that’s an exact quote from her prior to seeing the cameras, and now she says, oh, I better change my story, I guess.
COOPER: This quote says, “I was jolted backwards. Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost knell fell to the ground but was able..”.
TRUMP: Yanked you down. Did you see it? Did she almost fall to the ground, Anderson?
COOPER: “… was able to maintain my balance nonetheless. I was shaken. Campaign managers aren’t supposed to try to forcefully throw reporters to the ground.”
No, she did not go down on the ground.
TRUMP: Oh no, let me just say — look, before she knows — folks, look, I’m a loyal person. I’m going to be loyal to the country. I’m going to be loyal to Wisconsin. We have to tell it like it is. It would be so easy for me to terminate this man, ruin his life, ruin his family. He’s got four beautiful children in New Hampshire, ruin his whole everything, and say you’re fired. Okay? I fired many people, especially on “The Apprentice.”
TRUMP: But look at what she says. Michelle Fields, who, by the way, is not a baby. OK? In her own worlds, exactly. “I was jolted backwards.” Well, she’s standing there. “Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm.” Tightly. “And yanked me down.” She wasn’t yanked down. She was – like, she didn’t even have any expression. If somebody in this audience gets whacked, or gets hurt, including me, you get hit a little bit. You go, ow. There’s no emotion.
OK, wait a minute. “I almost fell to the ground.” I almost fell to the ground; she didn’t almost fall to the ground. He got in her way. And by the way, she was grabbing me! Am I supposed to press charges against her? Oh, my arm is hurting.
Anderson, my arm is just killing me. It’s never been the same.
COOPER: You’ve suggested you might —
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me! I didn’t suggest.
COOPER: Oh, yeah, you did.
TRUMP: I tweeted. No, no, I tweeted.
COOPER: A tweet is a suggestion.
TRUMP: Should I press charges?
COOPER: Are you going to?
TRUMP: Sure! I don’t know. Maybe I should, right? Because you know what?
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: She was grabbing me. And just so you understand, she was off base because she went through the Secret Service. She had a pen in her hand which Secret Service is not liking because they don’t know what it is, whether it’s a little bomb or —
COOPER: So it doesn’t concern you that initially Corey Lewandowski said I never touched her, and that turns out not to be true?
TRUMP: I don’t think he knew her. I mean, based on what I heard, I don’t think he really even knew who she was. To the best of my knowledge, they really didn’t know each other. Or he said he doesn’t know her.
But listen to this: “I almost fell to the ground,” which is untrue, “but was able to maintain my balance.” She had no trouble with her balance because it’s right on tape. “Nonetheless, I was shaken. Campaign managers aren’t supposed to try to forcefully throw reporters to the ground.” She didn’t go to the ground! She didn’t even have an expression on her face.
COOPER: Do you think this is politically motivated?
TRUMP: It could be. I don’t know. Look, I’ll tell you what: a friend of mine who’s in law enforcement said to me, there’s probably not a detective in the world that would have done what they did to him. I mean, people in Syria —
COOPER: The state attorney’s a Democrat.
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. Oh, really? Oh, I’m shocked to hear that. You know,
TRUMP: You know, people, are chopping off heads in the Middle East. They’re drowning people in cages by 50s. They’re drowning — here’s a guy – she shouldn’t have been touching me. Okay? And you saw that she did that. She was grabbing me. Twice.
I looked at her. In fact, one of the great pictures is me going like this like, get away from me, who is this person? Okay? But my arm, it’s never been the same, folks.
TRUMP: Never been the same.
So let me just tell you, she went through Secret Service, boom. She grabbed me, and he really stepped in front of her. I didn’t see the grab; he stepped in front of her. She wasn’t supposed to be asking questions because the press conference lasted for 45 minutes, and all questions were done. And I was walking rapidly outside.
COOPER: But this is the second time Lewandowski has touched somebody. He did this to a protester, he grabbed a guy by the collar. Something which you actually backed him up on And you said –
TRUMP: I back people up. And I back up (INAUDIBLE). Did you see what he did? Did you see what he did?
COOPER: I did. In fact, there’s the video right there.
TRUMP: Did you see the sign the protester was holding?
COOPER: No I didn’t.
TRUMP: Did you see what was on that sign?
COOPER: No, I didn’t.
TRUMP: Do me a favor. Take a look at what was on the sign.
COOPER: But should your campaign manager be laying hands on anybody?
TRUMP: Excuse me. Did you see the protester grabbing the woman in front of him? With his hands on her neck?
TRUMP: OK. Take a look. You know what he did? He had his shirt with two fingers like this, and then he let go because security was behind him, and they took off.
COOPER: Your opponents are suggesting, on the Republican side, are suggesting that this says something about your leadership, that you’re condoning this kind of thing –
TRUMP: Oh, I think my leadership is very good. I’ve watched Ted Cruz, I watched him. He didn’t even know what state he comes from, OK? I watched him talking about he comes from the state of Florida. Fort Hood is in Texas, by the way. But if you see what he said. I don’t know.
I’m so surprised with him, Anderson, that you let him get away with that. But I’ll tell you what. You just take a look – you just take a look at what’s going on. I stick up for people when they’re right. I would have loved to have fired – it would have been much easier than talking to you about this all night long. I’d rather talk about the issues, to be honest.
But I stick up –
TRUMP: Right? I stick up for people when people are unjustly accused. And in my opinion, unjustly accused. She’s grabbing me. He walks in to stop it. She walked through Secret Service. She had a pen in her hand, which could have been a knife, it could have been just a pen, which is very dangerous. She should not have been doing that.
And she didn’t fall to the ground. She wasn’t dragged to the ground and all of the things that she said, Anderson. I stick up for people, and I don’t want to ruin somebody’s life. It would have been very easy for me to do so. You know, when I owned Miss Universe, I had the case of the young woman who was very unjustly accused by somebody that you know very well. And I gave her a second chance.
And I’m very proud of her. She had a tremendous substance abuse problem and I’m very – Tara, I’m very, very proud of her. I’m very proud of the job she did.
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